Egypt's Morsi facing backlash over power grab
It's not just secularists and liberals who are up in arms over Egyptian President Morsi's decree that he is above judicial review.
His justice minister has publicly urged him to withdraw the measure, while three advisors have resigned because of it.
With a threatened strike by the nation's judges, a plunge in the country's stock market and more street protests looming, Mr. Morsi's administration sent mixed messages on Sunday over whether it was willing to consider a compromise. A spokesman for the president's party insisted that there would be no change in his edict, but a statement from the party indicated for the first time a willingness to give political opponents "guarantees against monopolizing the fateful decisions of the homeland in the absence of the Parliament."
And the justice minister, Ahmed Mekki, the influential leader of a judicial independent movement under Mr. Mubarak and one of Mr. Morsi's closest aides, was actively trying to broker a deal with top jurists to resolve the crisis.
It is the most acute test to date of the ability and willingness of Mr. Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president and a former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, to engage in the kind of give and take that democratic government requires. But he also must contend with real doubts about the willingness of his anti-Islamist opponents to join him in compromise. Each side is mired in deep suspicion of the other, a legacy of the decades when the Brotherhood survived here only as an insular secret society, demonized as dangerous radicals by most of the Egyptian elite.
Morsi had good reason to try and sideline the judicial branch of government; justices were about to declare his Islamist-dominated constitutional assembly which was about to codify Sharia law:
A court of judges appointed under the Mubarak government was widely rumored to be about to dissolve the elected constitutional assembly, dominated by Mr. Morsi's Islamist allies - just as the same court had previously cast out the newly elected Islamist-led Parliament - and the decree issued by Mr. Morsi on Thursday gave him the power to stop it.
"I see with all of you, clearly, that the court verdict is announced two or three weeks before the court session," Mr. Morsi told his supporters on Friday, referring to the pervasive rumors about the court's impending action in a fiery speech defending his decree. "We will dissolve the entire homeland, as it seems! How is that? How? Those waywards must be held accountable."
The so-called constitutional assembly was "elected" by a parliament that no longer exists and that contained 70% Islamists. And despite Morsi's solemn promise to make sure the assembly represented all factions of Egypt's political culture, the Islamist parties represent the overwhelming majority of members. The opposition walked out of parliament to protest which has left the assembly firmly in the hands of radicals.
Morsi has no intention of sharing power with anyone. The US should strongly condemn this power grab and threaten to withhold financial and military aid until it is rescinded.